Educational partnership aims to bring more specialists to Japan

Japanese small animal veterinarians often come to the United States for specialized training—and then stay in the United States to pursue their careers.

The Japanese Foundation for Veterinary Specialist Scholarship (JFVSS) is changing that picture through a program that trains specialists who must, under the terms of the program, return to Japan to practice.

The Colorado State University (CSU) College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences provides the veterinary education, and the country of Japan provides students with financial resources and support for the duration of their course of study. That course of study includes two years of graduate school and a three-year residency program. Upon completion of the five-year course of study, participants receive a Master’s of Science (MS) degree and are qualified to take the specialist certification exam. 

According to the plan, one veterinary student will join the program each year, and, beginning in 2018, one veterinary specialist will return to Japan each year.

Satohiko Sato, DVM (pictured), is the program’s first student. He entered the program in 2013, leaving at home his "smashed-face cat" (an exotic shorthair). Because of his education in Tokyo, he was able to earn an MS in toxicology in one year. In July 2014, he started working at the CSU veterinary teaching hospital as a fellow in the small animal internal medicine service. This year as a fellow will prepare Dr. Sato for a three-year specialty residency.

Sato said he always dreamed of being a specialist. He graduated from the University of Tokyo in 2011 with a doctorate in veterinary oncology. He then studied as a postdoctoral research fellow in Seattle, Wash., at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where he learned about bone marrow transplantation in dogs.

But that wasn’t enough. "I still wanted more practice experience under the supervision of a board-certified veterinary specialist," said Sato. Since there are no such programs in Japan, Sato was delighted to find the program at CSU and the JFVSS funding that made his enrollment possible.

Through the program, Sato has had the opportunity to see many cases he would not treat in Japan, under the supervision of board-certified specialists. "I can feel my skills as an internist improve day by day," stated Sato.

Makoyo (Max) Matsurri is the international programs coordinator for the veterinary college. A group of five veterinarians in Japan took the lead in creating the JFVSS program. In June, 2011, JFVSS was established to manage the program.

Tetsuya Kobayashi, DVM, MSpVM, D, ACVM (Oncology), director of the JFVSS, is the first oncologist in Japan to be certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM). He is an oncologist with the Small Animal Cancer Center in Saitama, Japan, and adjunct faculty member at Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University. Kobayashi and his colleagues, meeting in Japan, choose candidates for the program.